A Fast and Comprehensive Guide to Herpetic Whitlow (Whitlow Finger)

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A whitlow finger or herpetic whitlow (whitlow finger) is an abscess of the finger’s end caused by HSV or the “cold sore virus.” The infection typically affects the fingertip’s fleshy area.

Symptoms

The fingertip rapidly becomes swollen, red and very painful. Small tiny blisters develop beneath the finger’s skin, which could break to discharge fluid, ultimately crusting over.

Cause

Herpes simplex virus has two types: HSV types 1 and 2. Both types can result in a herpetic whitlow. These types of virus can cause genital herpes and cold sores as well.

herpetic-whitlow A Fast and Comprehensive Guide to Herpetic Whitlow (Whitlow Finger)
Hepretic whitlow (whitlow finger)

A herpetic whitlow can form as a secondary infection given that you already have genital herpes or a cold sore and then touch the sore skin area, speeding the virus from the genitals or mouth to your finger. Also, it can develop if you come into contact with the blister or sore of another infected individual. Additionally, you are at greater risk of getting herpetic whitlow if you have a weak immune system.

Treatment

A herpetic whitlow could be treated using an antiviral medication like aciclovir. Your doctor may prescribe a 5 or 7-day course of 200 mg aciclovir to be taken five times daily, or 400 mg taken three times daily.

However, this is merely worth taking if you commence the treatment within forty-eight hours of symptoms beginning to appear. Utilising an antiviral medication after this primary period will unlikely to have an effect.

Antiviral drugs could aid to heal herpetic whitlow. However, they don’t eliminate HSV or inhibit future HSV outbreaks. A herpetic whitlow will heal no antiviral treatment within 2 to 3 weeks. Antiviral treatment could:

• diminish the time taken to heal abscess
• diminish the risk of a bacterial infection
• diminish the risk of the HSV spreading to other body parts

herpetic-whitlow-1 A Fast and Comprehensive Guide to Herpetic Whitlow (Whitlow Finger)
The herpes virus

Management

You must cover the infection with light dressing so that it does not spread any further. Do not wear contact lenses until the whitlow has healed to prevent the virus from spreading to your eyes. You can purcahse an OTC painkiller like ibuprofen or paracetamol for pain relief. Never try to drain the fluid because this could cause HSV to spread or result in a bacterial infection.

Recurrence

The herpes virus stays inactive (dormant) within nerve cells and could reactivate later in life, at times following an illness or stress. This can give rise to another herpetic whitlow at the same area as the initial one. If a herpetic whitlow does reappear, it can be managed and treated in the same manner, with antiviral medication.

If the whitlow reappears frequently, the antiviral medication can be provided for extended periods (years usually) to diminish the number of recurrences. This suppressive antiviral medication will also cut both the whitlow’s severity and the period it takes to heal.

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